LAWRENCE — The timing couldn't have been better. As thermometers in Lawrence neared 100-degrees, the city opened a toddlers water park at Bourgoin Square Park, 154 West St., Wednesday afternoon.
Dozens of neighbors joined Mayor Daniel Rivera and other city officials for the official grand opening of the $220,000 park, paid for with federal block grant funding.
"When I was little, growing up in Lawrence, I had to walk a long way to one of the state pools," Rivera told the crowd of about 50 people gathered for the event, which included treats from the Lawrence Police Department's ice cream truck and barbecued hotdogs, courtesy of city staff. "But the ability to get to a place to get wet and cool off in your own neighborhood is really special."
Rivera, along with Community Development Director Vilma Martinez-Dominguez, Groundwork Lawrence Project Manager Brad Buschur, and Director of Lawrence Planning and Development Theresa Park recounted some of the history of the park, as well as plans for its future.
Martinez-Dominguez said the water park is adjacent to a new playground, built recently along with another playground in the city for about $500,000 in state funds.
"I love splash parks," she said, adding that parks are part of a larger public infrastructure plan for the city to enhance open space.
Rivera noted that for many years, the site of the new splash park had a tall, cement obelisk with shower heads sticking out the side, which he called a "1970s version" of a water park.
The new park, on the other hand, has a colorful base, some swirling fountains coming out of the ground, and a snaking metal structure that also spouts water. A number of toddlers smiled as the played, cooling off while the adults nearby sweated in the summer sun.
Rivera stressed that the new playground, along with the popularity of an adjacent soccer field and the new water park, will bring people to a blighted area popular with drug users.
"There's a lot of drug use in this area," he said. "We did this because we are facing up to that problem. The more regular people use this, the fewer people using drugs will be here."